You may have watched movies or heard stories about people laundering money and getting away with millions of dollars, but the truth is that many people who commit these crimes are found out and do face serious penalties.

One way that major businessmen and women participate in money laundering is by taking a bribe or large sum of money and placing it into a shell company in an offshore jurisdiction. In that kind of jurisdiction, it is possible to keep your ownership of the account private, so no one knows you have it. Since the government and individuals around you have no idea that you have the account, you can spend it as you like.

Additionally, the person who gave you the money, likely a business or individual paying a legitimate bill that has your bribe hidden inside, writes off the payment as a business expense. The payment is listed as going to an offshore consultant’s accounts instead of your accounts. Since your accounts are anonymous, no one can trace them and the deal is done.

Another thing some do on a smaller scale is to take cash bribes or payments made in cash and to then purchase anonymous debit cards for any amounts needed. These cards are loaded with the funds, and once that happens, the funds are no longer able to be tracked. Since they are not bank accounts and have no name linked to the cards, the government can’t track them.

These are just a few ways money laundering is performed. Each is illegal, and you can face harsh penalties if you’re accused and convicted. Our website has more on how to defend yourself against accusations of money laundering.